December 11, 2016

After cigarette butts, chewing gum is the second most prevalent litter problem in the world. A study of Britain’s gum waste on pavements show 92% of their paving stones have gum. Every year, gum waste adds up to more than 250,000 tons of waste and 80-90% of it are not disposed of properly. Predictions suggest that in the next 5 years, gum waste will increase to 1 million metric tons. Gum is composed of polymers or synthetic plastics, which are not biodegradable. Gum is also not digestible, for humans and any living creatures. In our seas, fish consume the littered gum producing toxins and eventually coming back to us when we eat the fish.  Lastly, bacteria on chewed gum is present. Did you know? In order to prepare for the 2012 London Olympics, they conducted a gum cleanup of 300,000 pieces off of less than 2 miles for 3 months. It cost the city between 16 cents to 3 dollars to remove a wad of gum.

Gum removal and cleanup costs money and is time-consuming. Not to mention, the chemicals used to clean it up can either be harmful or gives off strong odor.  In landfills, the disposal and collection of gum waste costs more than $2 million annually. To steam, spray, dissolve, or scrape a square metre of pavement off of gum costs £0.45 to £1.50. London spent £8,500 ($11,000) to clean off gum in Trafalgar Square.

Here at Tustin High School, gum litter is a widespread problem, especially for our custodians. Our team of students counted every wad of gum on our school grounds and it turned out that 34, 108 pieces of gum were stuck. Who knows how many years some of those have been left uncleaned? The most gum litter in our school is located in our front gates with over 17,000 gum. Even our brand new humanities building which was just opened the beginning of the school year now has 939 pieces of gum. Our hardworking custodians has been cleaning these gum litter, but they’ve been having a difficult time cleaning these up with the gum machine they use. The gum machine is not effective, as it doesn’t work and its heavy weight hinders them. We saw how our custodians have been in hardship and how our school has been contaminated with gum , leaving an unclean image of the school. To help our custodians, we decided to develop a gum removal machine they can effectively use, making their jobs easier.

Gum Survey of the SchoolGum Survey of the SchoolCounting the number of gum on the groundCounting the number of gum on the ground

In addition to the development of our gum removal machine, we have also reached out to our administrators and student body to help bring awareness to this sticky problem. There will be more trash cans added throughout our campus so our students can have an outlet to properly dispose their chewed gum. In addition, our student body will make posters and post them around school regarding the importance of proper gum disposal. In addition, announcements and reminders will be made everyday. These are just small, little solutions to an overlooked litter problem.